Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, also referred to as Rajaji, was born on December 10, 1878, in Thorapalli, Madras (present-day Tamil Nadu). He graduated from Central College, Bangalore in 1894, and completed law from Presidency College, Madras in 1897.
Political Career and Involvement in India’s independence movement:
He began his political career in 1911 when he became a member of the Salem municipality and served as its Chairman from 1917 to 1919. He joined the Indian National Congress and participated in the agitations against the Rowlett Act, the Non-Cooperation movement, the Vaikom Satyagraha, and the Civil Disobedience movement. He was later elected to the Congress Working Committee and went on to serve as the General Secretary of the party. He was an active follower of Mahatma Gandhi and led a parallel ‘salt march’ at Vedaranyam when Gandhi took out his Dandi march, which led to his imprisonment. He became the first Premier of the Madras Presidency following the Madras elections of 1937. During his two-year premiership, he undertook several initiatives, including removing the restriction that prevented Dalits from entering Hindu temples, compulsory introduction of Hindi in educational institutions, and introducing prohibition. He eventually resigned from both the premiership and the party.
Key contribution in Constitution Making:
He voiced the demand for a Constituent Assembly, in 1939 and was the first person to sign the register and become the member of the Constituent Assembly. He was for making Hindi India’s National language and argued against reorganizing states on a linguistic basis.
Post Independence Role
After independence, he was appointed as the first Governor of West Bengal, and served as the first and last Governor-General of India, from 1948 to 1950. He also served as the Home Minister for a term of 10 months, before resigning and returning to Madras, where he was appointed the Chief Minister. His two-year term led to the creation of Andhra Pradesh(?) as a separate state, the end of sugar rationing, and the modification of the education system of Madras. In 1959, he formed the Swatantra Party, which campaigned for equality and deregulation of the private sector, and managed to emerge as the single largest opposition party in the 1967 elections.
In 1922, he published Siraiyil Tavam (meditation in jail), a day-to-day account of his first imprisonment by the British. An accomplished writer both in his mother tongue Tamil as well as English, he wrote an abridged retelling of the Mahabharata as well as the Ramayana in English, and later wrote a retelling of the Ramayana – Chakravarti Thirumagan in Tamil.
Life after retirement:
He was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1954, for his outstanding contribution to Indian politics and literature. He died on 25th December 1972.